September 22, 2005
BY JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The doctor drew a diagram on his cast, depicting the three areas on Calvin Peete's left elbow that were broken, and sent the boy on his way.
SUITABLE FOR FAMING
in the 51st induction dinner for Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Calvin Peete: Detroit native who played on two Ryder Cup teams.
George Perles: Detroit native who won several Super Bowls as a Steelers assistant and a Rose Bowl as Michigan State's coach.
The era was the 1950s, and Peete had returned to Michigan with members of his family for a few weeks to harvest cherries in Suttons Bay, north of Traverse City. He was just a child then, no more than 12, but a well-traveled 12.
Peete had moved from city life -- he was born in Detroit -- to the rural country setting of Hayti, Mo., where he pumped water, chopped wood and helped support the family with migrant work during harvest. When the cotton picking was good, Peete recalled, he made four cents a pound.
Money was his incentive for climbing a little higher up the cherry tree that day. Of course, golf aficionados know the rest of the story -- how Peete lost his footing and dropped to the ground, shattering his elbow; how the bones never healed right, leaving him with a permanently crooked arm that eventually produced one of the straightest and sweetest swings on the PGA Tour.
Peete, now 62, will be honored for his golf career and more when he's inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame tonight at Cobo Center.
"It will be nice to get back home," Peete said Tuesday from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where he lives with his wife, Pepper, and their daughters, Aisha, 11, and Aleya, 9. "I'm very happy to be from Detroit. It's home. I still have ties there."
The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1954 -- about the time Peete was in Suttons Bay helping his family make a living, long before he ever considered becoming a pro golfer.
Peete's parents had separated when he was 11, and moving away from Detroit wasn't easy for him.
"I was poor, which I realized after the fact, but as a kid growing up in Detroit, I really didn't want for much," he said. "I had clothes, food, shelter. I had friends. A couple of my greatest memories as a child was playing hopscotch, kick the can, hide and go seek, and marbles.
"Moving to Hayti, Mo., was definitely a culture shock -- some of the things I went through as a child weren't pleasant. But I don't think of them as horror stories, either. Those experiences helped mold my character and made me the person that I am."
Twenty years ago, Peete captured the biggest victory of his pro career when he won the 1985 Tournament Players Championship by three strokes.
One of golf's top players of the 1980s, Peete led the tour in driving accuracy for 10 straight years starting in 1981. Wearing his signature cap, he won 11 PGA Tour events and was a U.S. Ryder Cup team member in 1983 and '85.
For his career, Peete earned more than $3 million on the PGA and Champions tours.
Peete, who didn't take up the game until he was 23, said his inspiration was Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first black man to play in the Masters.
"Lee Elder was the first black man I had seen playing professional golf on the tour," Peete said.
He also will never forget the first time he met Elder. It was the 1975 Milwaukee Open, and Peete was a 32-year-old rookie.
Peete: "He said, 'Congratulations, I'm glad you got your card. If there's anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask. If you need some sponsor exemptions, I'll make some calls for you.'
"He really treated me very well."
Asked if he took up Elder's offer, Peete said: "I was one of those people who wanted to do it myself. I didn't come out here begging. I came out to prove that I can compete."
Peete did it the old-fashioned way, too, playing his way into events from the Monday qualifying tournaments.
"I was fortunate enough to be able qualify in 98 percent of the tournaments that I tried to qualify for," Peete said.
He retired from competitive golf in the spring of 2001, two years after he was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, an inherited neurological disorder that causes involuntary movement of muscles.
His struggle with the disorder was profiled in a lengthy feature this year in Golf Digest. Peete said Tourette's contributed to his sometimes odd behavior, his winless seasons on the senior tour, and his early retirement from the game.
Since the story was published, Peete said he has been amazed by the reaction -- all positive, he said.
"Even my psychiatrist said, 'Calvin, how did you win the Players Championship?' " Peete said. "People were amazed at what I was able to do with that kind of problem.
"Looking back, I knew I had a problem. I didn't know what it was, but I knew I had to deal with it."
Peete said he plays golf so sparingly these days that he could count the number of rounds he had played this year: three. Part of that is because he's committed to another job: raising two daughters with Pepper, his wife of 13 years.
Peete also has five grown children from a previous marriage.